Westchester Children’s Association’s (WCA) is the leading independent voice for Westchester’s youth. Our record of advocating for effective policies and programs for children began in 1914. Since then, WCA has continued to speak out and work steadily on behalf of Westchester children and youth.
Watch the stories of young people’s lives that have been changed by WCA’s work.
Highlights from 100 Years of Advocating for Youth
1914 – 1940s
- A group of citizens starts Westchester Children’s Association, underwriting the salaries of Westchester’s first 6 child welfare workers.
- Led the movement to establish a Children’s Court in Westchester, the first in New York State.
- Introduced remedial reading programs and guidance programs into the county’s public schools.
- Developed a vocational guidance and placement service for youth.
- Established a child guidance center in White Plains.
1950s – 1980s
- Placed the first clinical psychologist in the county’s public schools.
- Analyzed foster care caseload and studied effective programs for helping kindergarten children with emotional problems.
- Established an early childhood counseling center in Mt. Vernon, serving emotionally troubled preschool children and their parents. Westchester Children’s Association turned responsibility for this center over to the county’s Mental Health Board in 1975.
- Initiated Operations Crossroads, connecting children and families involved in the Family Court with needed services and programs.
- Established the county’s first shelter for runaway and homeless youth, operated today by Children’s Village.
- Conducted a parenting education program in the county’s well-baby clinics.
- Instituted an Annual Youth Convention for Teens, now sponsored by the Westchester Youth Council, to teach students how to be community activists and advocates.
- Founded the Campaign for Kids, in collaboration with the Westchester Council on Crime and Delinquency, successfully advocating for increased county investment in services for children and youth. The Campaign for Kids, led and staffed by WCA, now comprises of more than 80 organizations.
- Developed a supervised visitation program to enable children to maintain meaningful contact with non-custodial parents (now operated by YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester with funding secured through WCA advocacy).
- Established the Yonkers Family Court Children’s Center to care for young children whose parents had to appear as litigants (now operated by YWCA of Yonkers).
- Secured funding for two more Family Court Children’s Centers in White Plains and New Rochelle (currently operated by YWCA of White Plains).
- Formed the Child Health Task Force with the Westchester County Department of Health to prepare for the expansion of state-sponsored health insurance for children.
- Created Westchester Children by the Numbers, a comprehensive compilation of data on Westchester’s children. This data was first published as a book, later as a searchable website database, and now on the Children By the Numbers blog.
- Secured the first-ever grant for Westchester’s foster youth who age out of care to help them start their independent adult lives.
- Successfully advocated for increased public investments in early-childhood mental health, resulting in the creation of Early Step Forward programs that serve more than 1,000 children per year.
- Published a series of booklets and pamphlets aimed at improving children’s physical, emotional, and oral health.
- Coordinated government and community agencies to enroll more than 10,000 eligible children in free or low-cost health insurance.
- Led the fight for better pediatric emergency training for EMTs and ambulance volunteers, leading to establishment of a training center attended by hundreds of emergency workers each year.
- Chaired the Child Health Advocacy Network (CHAN), a coalition of 70+ members (formerly Child Health Task Force).
- Published The Toughest Job: Improving Parenting Programs for Westchester Families in Need, an examination of and recommendations for parenting support and education programs for vulnerable families.
- Published Supporting Our Youngest Citizens: An Inventory and Review of Early Childhood Resources in Westchester, examining early intervention resources available in the county.
- Published Children Adrift, a report examining the plight of foster children waiting for adoption, which hastened reform of the county’s adoption practices.
2010 – present
- Led a successful campaign to make children a top priority for government spending, thus preserving more than $7 million in county-funded children and youth services.
- Convenes an inter-agency Home Visiting Workgroup to expand early childhood home visiting programs to help new parents improve their parenting skills and connect to community resources.
- Convenes the Connecting Youth Workgroup with representatives from public and private organizations to improve outcomes for youth ages 16 to 24 who are not working or in school.
- Published “Pay Attention! A Guide to the Well-Being of Your Child From Birth to Six,” a bilingual educational guide for parents about children’s emotional development.
- Published Dreams Deferred: Reconnecting Youth to School, Work, and Community, a study of factors affecting disconnected youth in Westchester with recommendations for change.